If you’re just starting out with the goal of becoming well-versed in Peruvian cooking, you may encounter some ingredients that sound a bit confusing, and you may worry that they are hard to find. However, with brands like Mama Tina’s making more of their products available online, anyone can create authentic Peruvian dishes at home. For example, Peruvian stews such as carapulcra will call for papa seca amarilla. The literal translation is dried yellow potato. Not so confusing, right? These potatoes are dried naturally in the cool Andean air and work wonderfully when added to soups and stews. They are available at bodegas and some grocery stores, particularly in areas with a strong South American influence. For example, we are lucky here in Southern Connecticut, where a large group of Peruvian Americans means a better selection of local Peruvian food. But, as I mentioned, you can also find papa seca amarilla online. Of course, the Internet is also a great source for Peruvian recipes. If you prefer to purchase a cookbook, we recommend The Art of Peruvian Cuisine by Felipe Antonio Custer.
Anticuchos are a traditional Peruvian street food, but can also be found in restaurants across the country. Tender beef heart is marinated in a seasoning mixture that includes aji panca, one of the most popular Peruvian chili peppers, and then grilled on a skewer, for a simple, yet delicious treat. You can also make an aji panca marinade for chicken, or any other meat you enjoy, but the most traditional way to enjoy anticuchos is to use beef heart. The easiest way to make a marinade like this is to use aji panca paste, which contains all of the authentic flavor of the peppers without the need for fresh produce. A couple of teaspoons of this potent paste can transform a simple recipe into an authentic Peruvian dish. Try anticuchos the next time you visit your local Peruvian restaurant.
Although most travelers think of Machu Picchu as the main attraction in Peru, the Amazon is gaining popularity as well. Although the Amazon was once very difficult to get to and maneuver around, you can easily fly from Lima to Iquitos, and then join a river cruise with a local guide or stay at a jungle lodge. Most of the lodging and tours are relatively inexpensive, although there are new luxury accommodations as well, such as upscale cruises by Aqua Expeditions, a company launched in 2007. Visitors can experience piranha fishing, excellent bird watching, unique animal sightings, and short hikes through fascinating terrain. Some visitors describe their experiences in the Amazon as being somewhat eerie at times, because of the distance from the hustle and bustle of cities, but also peaceful and relaxing in a way that is new to them. The Amazon will offer as much adventure as you crave, or just an escape from your usual routine. Either way, it’s an experience travelers never forget.
One of the most elegant forms of Peruvian jewelry includes the wings of the elusive blue morpho butterfly. Once the butterflies live out their natural lives, their beauty is preserved by locals who collect their wings. Artisans place the delicate, often iridescent wings in expertly crafted settings made with .950 sterling silver. The result are necklaces that tell a story of the Amazon’s wild beauty – handcrafted keepsakes that remind us of the many treasures nature provides. Butterfly wing jewelry is the perfect gift for a butterfly lover, or anyone who deserves a special present for a graduation, birthday, or “just because.” Each butterfly wing necklace comes with a sterling silver chain.
Flaxseed flour, or flaxseed meal, is a wonderful ingredient for cooking and baking, as well as a simple way to add nutrients to any snack or dish. Simply mix it into yogurt or fruit salad for added fiber, omega-3s, vitamins, and protein. Also use flax flour in place of some whole wheat or white flour in your baked goods. From smoothies and shakes to bread and pancakes, there is always a way to add healthy fats and fiber to your diet using just a little bit of flaxseed flour. In Peru, flaxseed meal is called Harina de Linaza, or flour of flaxseeds, so the words meal and flour are interchangeable in this case. A good tip is to drink extra water when eating flaxseeds, or add extra water to your baking recipes when using flax flour.
What do you picture when you think of Peru? Machu Picchu? The Amazon? Peruvian food? Many people would probably list llamas or alpacas as one of the things they associate most with Peru. These intriguing animals are a standard part of Peru’s beautiful landscape, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to ride in a llama taxi. Available in the Colca Canyon area, llama taxis are an interesting way to travel as you take in the sights. The llamas wear traditional Peruvian decorations, and guide carts through Chivay and the Sibayo district. Right now the service is limited to a group of 6 llama taxis in that area, but the service will expand to other regions provided it is successful. It seems that it will be a great option for travelers, and a good source of income for local tour guides.
Handcrafted Peruvian Jewelry stands out for several reasons. Each piece shows a particular artisan’s style, as well as Peruvian tradition. The materials are often native to Peru, making them exotic and unique. Huayruro seeds, for example, are natural seeds found in Peru’s Amazon. Butterfly wings from the Amazon are also placed in jewelry settings to create beautifully organic jewelry. Native stones and shells include sodalite, chrysocolla, spondylus, obsidian, and nacar. Each one ranges in hues, making every Peruvian bracelet, earrings, or necklace a special treasure for a woman with discerning taste. This Peruvian Nacar Bracelet is made with shells that are perfectly polished and meticulously set. Nacar is another word for mother of pearl, and this mother of pearl bracelet is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.
The Coupe du Monde, or World Cup of Baking, takes place in a likely location – France. However, some people may be surprised to hear that one of the favorite teams heading to the international invitational is from Peru. Already a top team in South America, Peru’s bakers have been working on their recipes and techniques for the past year in preparation for this high stakes event. Their most valuable ingredients are Peru’s native super grains – kiwicha, quinoa, purple corn flour, and more. The team includes an expert in savory breads, a pastry specialist, a bread artist, and an alternate. The other countries that will be represented at this prestigious event are France, Italy, Sweden, Poland, Netherlands, Japan, Correa, Taiwan, Senegal, United States and Costa Rica. The teams have less than one month to perfect their creations before the event, which runs from March 3rd to the 7th. One promising Peruvian recipe, called Machu Picchu bread, is marbled with chocolate pastry. It will take some strong competition to compete with Peru’s grains and culinary techniques.
Huacatay (wa-ka-tie) is black mint, native to Peru. The leaves are ground into a paste before they are used in most recipes, and pre-made huacatay paste is one of the best ingredients to have in your pantry when cooking Peruvian food. Mama Tina’s Huacatay Paste, pictured here, is imported from Peru and contains no artificial preservatives. Use it to create pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian rotisserie chicken, or a list of other condiments and dishes. Mama Tina’s will also be introducing frozen huacatay leaves soon, which can be ground as needed. Pastes, along with frozen and dried peppers, make Peruvian cooking easy. We also recommend The Art of Peruvian Cuisine as a comprehensive cookbook, along with the Mama Tina’s Peruvian Food website.
So you’ve heard of boogie boarding, skateboarding, and snowboarding, but how about sandboarding? In the oasis of Huacachina, a short drive from Ica, locals and adventurous travelers enjoy the sand dunes with their own form of boarding. For the less adventurous, there are buggy rides through the dunes, and hotel pools within the resort town.
As a growing attraction for young people, Huacachina also has clubs and bars that provide entertainment all night, with the parties ending around 5 am. The town itself is a sight to see, with a lush green landscape surrounded by the stark contrast of the dunes. Legend has it that the lagoon this tiny town is built around was left when a goddess was surprised by a hunter during her bath and quickly fled, leaving the puddle of water behind her. Some say the goddess now lives as a mermaid inside the lagoon. However this fascinating town was formed, it is a rarity within the desert. Local families visit Huacachina for holidays, and more and more travelers are discovering this oasis in Peru.